Friday, July 29, 2016

{UPDATED} Basic Macarons

It's been quite a while since I've updated my recipe blog. A goal of mine is to catch up on a few favorite recipes this summer. I had a dear friend text me tonight requesting a recipe for macarons that she could pass along with a shower gift tomorrow morning, so I thought I'd update my basic macaron recipe with a few new tips and tricks I've learned along the way.

{UPDATED} Basic Macarons

2/3 c. almond flour (sometimes called meal)
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 egg whites at room temperature
5 T. granulated sugar
3/4 t. vanilla (or almond) extract
gel coloring

Heat oven to 280-300 degrees and place the racks on the two lowest positions. Cut pieces of parchment paper to fit two cookie sheets perfectly (cut corners too). I no longer draw circles. I found it to be a very time consuming task that I quickly tired of. I learned how to pipe the macarons in a way to keep the perfect shape of a circle (description below).

Place 2/3 c. almond flour (packed tightly) with 1.5 c. powdered sugar in a food processor and process until very smooth and mixed together thoroughly. DO NOT do this in a blender, as it somehow adds moisture. If you don't have a mixer, you can sift your almond flour before measuring, then whisk the flour and powdered sugar together. This avoids little pieces of almond in your cookies.

After separating the egg whites (keep yolks for buttercream and curds), add them to the bowl of a mixer (I love my Kitchenaid). If you're like me, and always forget to set out the eggs so they're at room temperature when you begin, here's a tip. Put the egg whites in the mixer bowl, and swirl around atop of your cooktop's flame (requires a gas stove). Using a clean finger, I will swirl the egg whites around until they are not hot or cold, but room temperature--works like a charm! Add 5 T. of granulated sugar to your egg whites. Using your heavy duty mixer, start with speed 4 and beat for 2 minutes, then go to speed 6 for 2 minutes, and finally at speed 8 for 2 minutes. At this point, add the extract and coloring, then set the mixer to speed 10 and and continue to beat until stiff peaks appear. You will notice that the egg whites start to gather in the middle, which indicates it's ready. To test it, pick up the whisk and if the egg white's peak at the top doesn't fall, they are ready. If it falls down, keep mixing. Make sure you don't over mix (it will become dry and clumpy--if that happens, start over with new egg whites).

Leaving the beat egg whites in the original mixing bowl, add a third of the dry mixture and fold it about a dozen times until just mixed. Fold with a spatula, going up the sides, pushing down the center. I use a silicone spatula and scrape around the sides of the bowl, then push down the middle twice, and continue that until you can't see the dry ingredients anymore. As soon as they are mixed in, add another 1/3 of the mixture and continue. Finish mixing the rest of the dry ingredients, being careful to fold and not stir. This last step is a little harder and will require you to scrape the sides and then push down in the middle a few times. When it starts to smooth out and thin out, start testing it by lifting your spatula, and dropping the batter into the bowl. The mixture should pour off the spatula like thick molten lava. If it's not flowing when you lift the spatula, it is too thick and needs more mixing. If you Google videos of stirring macaron batter, you can watch the experts do it and see the desired consistency. That helped me a lot when I was learning.

Use a piping bag with a medium-sized round tip (#10 works, but #12 is better). Place it in a large cup and fold over the sides. Pour in half of the mixture and twist the top. Start piping the batter into the circles. The best way to do it is to hold the pastry bag just over the pan (not touching) and squeeze slightly to let the batter come out until a circle is perfectly formed. This takes practice, but you will get it quickly. Make sure your pastry bag is straight up and down, and squeeze just until the batter flows out of the tip. As soon as you have the desired size (about the size of a quarter or half dollar), then stop squeezing. Then quickly turn your wrist as you lift the tip to try and not leave a tail. Once the first pan is filled, hold the pan with both hands and tap hard on the counter 3 times. Turn the pan so your hands are on the opposite ends and tap again 3 times (helps get any air pockets out and flattens the cookies). Continue until both pans are filled and the rest of the batter is used up. Let them sit on the counter for at least an hour, or until the tops are no longer wet when you touch them. (This could take a lot longer in a humid climate.) **If your batter spreads too much when you pipe the cookies, or they spread when you tap the pan, your batter is too thin and next time you need to stir less. If the cookies still have a little bump on the top of them, and it won't go away no matter how many times you tap the pan, you have too thick of a batter and you need to stir a few more strokes next time.

Place the cookie sheets on the two bottom oven racks. You will have to experiment with the cooking times, but this is what worked for me. Set the timer for 2 minutes and when it rings, open the door for about 30 seconds, to let any humidity escape. Then close the door and set the timer for 6 minutes. **This is the BIG moment in macaron making. When you open the oven, you will see if your macarons have the oh so important "feet" at the bottoms. If they have cracked or have a dome, that means you didn't let them dry long enough. Continue to bake and see if you can salvage any.

Once the initial 6 minutes is up, switch the pans so that the top one is now on the bottom, as well as turn around so the back of the pan is now in the front. Bake for 7 more minutes. To test the doneness, lightly press on the top of the cookie. If it is gooey underneath and moves a lot, it needs a couple more minutes. If it feels firm, then carefully try to lift the cookie off the sheet. If it comes off the parchment easily, they are done. If the cookie separates in half, bake one more minute, and so on. Cool the macaroons completely before lifting any off the pans. If they all come off perfectly, pat yourself on the back! If they stick a little, just be careful and try your best. If they stick a lot, use a thin metal spatula and try to scrape underneath them to salvage the cookie's important bottom.

Once all the cookies are off the sheets, you can find each of them a match. If you are the only one who piped them, they should be fairly consistent sizes and you can usually make a perfect match when pairing them up. I line them all up and then fill them with a buttercream or curd (recipes below). You should use a pastry bag with the same size of tip to fill the macarons, and only pipe the filling in the center, filling half of the macaron. Once you put the top on, squish just so you can see the edge of the filling sandwiched between the cookies.

Completed macarons are best if refrigerated (in a tight fitting container) for a couple of hours, or frozen up to 3 months. At least 15 minutes before serving, remove the macarons from the fridge and let them come to room temperature. If frozen, take out of the freezer an hour before serving, and keep sealed in the container, with the lid on, until completely thawed.

Basic Buttercream Filling

7 T. unsalted butter, cold
2 egg yolks
1/4 c. granulated sugar
3 1/2 T. milk or cream
1 t. vanilla or almond extract

Put cold butter in a ziplock freezer bag and hit it with a rolling pin until completely flattened. In your mixer, start beating the egg yolks on high, and add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture lightens to an off-white and you can no longer see the granules of sugar. Add the milk or cream, and whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture into a small saucepan and heat over low, whisking constantly to ensure that the mixture does not curdle or scorch. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and custardy, like pudding. Be VERY careful not to get too hot or it will cook the egg and you will have burnt spots. Whisk constantly and very quickly while waiting for it to thicken. Pour the thickened egg mixture back into its bowl and whisk constantly until it returns to room temperature or it feels cool when touching the bottom of the bowl. Add the butter in three batches, beating on high until each addition is mixed in. Once all the butter is mixed in, add the extract, and desired coloring; stir until smooth and all ingredients are fully combined. This basic recipe can be flavored and colored however you'd like and can be doubled or tripled. **If the buttercream curdles, that means the mixture was too hot or the butter wasn't cold enough. You can sometimes warm the mixing bowl with a hot blow dryer, or keep whisking and it usually will come together. Google troubleshooting with buttercream if you run into troubles.

Curd Filling

4 lg. egg yolks
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice, lime juice, or passionfruit puree
3 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Prepare an ice water bath; set aside. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the fruit juice and butter. Place over a pan of simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until thick, about 15 minutes. Transfer bowl to ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Transfer to refrigerator until completely cold, at least 2 hours and up to overnight. **Use leftover on pancakes!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Relief Society Social

I was so excited to be asked to work with the Relief Society for the annual birthday social. Because we were inviting so many sisters and young women, I was asked to plan on feeding 175. They wanted to have finger foods/appetizers and desserts instead of a sit-down dinner. They wanted the sisters to be able to walk around, work on projects and visit while eating and not have to worry about utensils, etc. I hadn't ever done an entire meal this way, but I was excited for the challenge.

I came up with 6 different appetizers and asked my ward sisters to help by bringing some mini desserts of some kind. Sadly, I underestimated the amount of desserts the sisters (and especially young women) would go through, and we ran out of them quickly. I need to remember to double those next time! The desserts were amazing and I wish I would have taken pictures of all of them!

We were so lucky to have this joint service activity with the three wards that meet in our building (Oakton, Oak Marr and Vienna). Each ward helped by doing amazing invitations, gorgeous decorations, and got everything we needed for the projects. Even though I wish I could've helped with the fantastic service projects everyone was busily working on, I was happy to serve the sisters and young women yummy food. I'm grateful to so many who helped me prepare, serve and clean-up. I wouldn't have been able to do it without all of them! It was so much fun to get to know sisters outside of our ward and I hope we do an activity together again soon!

Many have asked for the recipes, so I wanted to put them on my recipe blog so they were in one central location. Sorry about the pictures - just quick shots with my camera phone before everything was gobbled up - I sadly missed getting a shot of some things. The adorable Kate Harrison did the table design and wrote the names of the items on colored butcher paper, which I thought was brilliant!

BBQ Pork Sliders
Ellen James
Makes about 100 sliders or 40 large sandwiches

1 large pork butt or shoulder roast
1 lg. bottle of ketchup
3 T. yellow mustard
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. dried onion
slider buns

Cover roast with salt and pepper. Cook roast all day, or overnight, in a crockpot until it is tender. Remove roast from pan, making sure to get any pieces of meat that have fallen into the juices. Cool meat slightly so you don't get burned. Discard all fat and juices. Shred, or cube, the meat and put back into the crockpot. Add the ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and onions. Cook for another couple of hours, until the meat has absorbed the BBQ sauce and is very tender. Serve on slider buns (found at Wegmans next to hamburger buns) or kaiser rolls that have been toasted. 

Large quantity tips - I estimated 4 large pork roasts for 200 sandwiches. I had SO much meat left over that I really could have used only 2 roasts and it would have been perfect for that many sliders. The meat does freeze well if you have a lot of leftovers or you want to make ahead of an event. 

BLT Canap├ęs with Basil Mayonnaise
Recipe courtesy of America's Test Kitchen
Makes 33 appetizers 

2 c. fresh basil leaves, plus 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
2/3 c. mayonnaise 
4 t. lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper
11 slices white sandwich bread
11 slices bacon
6 ounces cherry tomatoes

Process basil leaves, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, and 1/4 t. salt in food processor until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt to taste. Put it in a squirt bottle, if you have one. (Basil Mayo can be refrigerated up to 4 days.)

Adjust oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat broiler. Using 2-inch round cutter, cut rounds out of bread slices (3 rounds per slice), avoiding crust. Spray both sides of bread rounds with oil spray and arrange on rimmed baking sheet. Broil until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes, flipping bread halfway through broiling. Let toasts cool completely. (Toasts can be held at room temperature for up to 6 hours.)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange bacon in single layer on rimmed backing sheet. Bake until crispy and brown, 10-12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate and let cool completely. Break each bacon slice evenly into 3 short pieces. (Bacon can be held at room temperature for up to 1 hour.)

Cut tomatoes into 1/3 inch thick slices. Season tomato slices with salt & pepper to taste. Spread basil mayo over 1 side of each toast, then top with 1 piece of bacon and 1 slice of tomato. Sprinkle with chopped basil. 

Canapes can be held at room temperature for up to 1 hour before serving.

Savory Palmiers
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten
Makes 50 hors d'oeuvres 

1 package frozen puff pastry (with 2 pastry sheets)
1/4 c. prepared pesto (I like Costco)
1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese
1/4 c. finely chopped sun-dried or oven-roasted tomatoes, drained
kosher salt

Defrost puff pastry according to package directions. Lightly flour a board and carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it's 9 1/2 X 11 1/2 inches. Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto, then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, and half the tomatoes. Sprinkle with 1/4 t. salt.

Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center. Then fold each side again toward the center until the folded edges almost touch. Fold one side over the other and press lightly. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and the remaining ingredients. Cover both rolls with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes (can be chilled for 1 day).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry into 1/4 inch thick slices and place them face up 2 inches apart on sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown. 

Palmiers can be held up to 6 hours before serving.

Caprese Bites
Ellen James

refrigerated cheese tortellini
cherry tomatoes
Castelvetrano olives (at Costco in large jars)
marinated mozzarella balls (at Costco)
basil leaves
olive oil
balsamic glaze
kosher salt

Cook tortellini according to package directions (follow suggested cooking time closely), drain and immediately drop in ice water bath to chill; drain. Layer tomato, basil leaf, tortellini, olive and cheese on kabobs. Once plated, drizzle olive oil and balsamic glaze lightly and top with a bit of salt.

Can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 3 hours before serving.

Veggie Cups with Greek Yogurt Dip
Recipe for dip from

1 t. chives
1/2 t. dill weed
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
2 t. parsley
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
assorted vegetables, cut into small sticks
(cherry tomatoes, put on the end of a toothpick)

I chose to use fresh herbs and had to double or triple amounts because of it. Also, I had to use a lot of extra seasonings to taste. The fresh herbs gave the dressing a green hint, which I liked. I used large shot glasses from a party store to put the dressing into before adding the veggie sticks. Can be assembled and refrigerated for up to 6 hours.

Fruit Kabobs
Ellen James

purple grapes
green grapes
mandarin oranges

Assemble fruit on kabobs and arrange on the try to form a rainbow. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 6 hours.

Please click on links above for recipes and directions. Coconut directions have been updated for a more fool-proof cookie shell. If you'd like to read how to whip your egg whites, refer to that one.

Made by Donna Nelson
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis - click on the link above for recipe.

Root Beer Cookies
Recipe from Malerie Bourne
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies


1 c. butter, softened
2 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt

Preheat oven to 375.  In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in buttermilk and root beer extract.
Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and gradually add to creamed mixture.  Drop by tablespoons (I do a larger amount) onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes (I have done 10) or until lightly browned.  Remove to wire racks to cool.  Frost and serve.


4 c. powdered sugar
¾ c. butter, softened
3 T. milk
1 t. root beer extract (I do a little extra)

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Beat until smooth.

Coconut Lime Snowballs
Recipe from Kylee West

Butter Cookie Dough

2 ½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t. grated lime zest
¾ cup superfine sugar
¼ t. table salt
16 T. unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into sixteen 1/2-inch pieces, at cool room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. cream cheese, at room temperature


1 T. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 T. lime juice
1 ½ c. confectioners' sugar
1 ½ c. sweetened shredded coconut, pulsed in food processor until finely chopped, about fifteen 1-second pulses


1. FOR THE COOKIES: In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, lime zest, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With mixer running on low, add butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, about 1 minute longer. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.

2. Use hands to roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake one batch at a time in 375-degree oven until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

3. FOR THE GLAZE: Whisk cream cheese and 2 tablespoons lime juice in medium bowl until combined and no lumps remain. Whisk in confectioners' sugar until smooth, adding remaining lime juice as needed until glaze is thin enough to spread easily.

4. Dip tops of cookies into glaze and scrape away excess, then dip into coconut. Set cookies on parchment-lined baking sheet; let stand until glaze dries and sets, about 20 minutes.

Chocolate Friands Cookies
Made by Kim Godard 
Recipe from Tartine, by Prueitt and Robertson

Kitchen note: You can use a pastry bag or tiny ice-cream scoop for filling the paper cups or wells, in place of the measuring cup. If you can find 1 1/2-by-1/2-inch [#105] glassine cups (or any similarly sized cups like those used for holding candies), you can use them for baking the friands, and they can be served in them as well. Friand is French for "small mouthful."


6 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups + 1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs


4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line up 24 mini-muffin-cup paper liners on a baking sheet, or butter and flour 24 mini-muffin wells, knocking out the excess flour.

To make the batter, place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until very hot. Pour the butter over the chocolate and whisk or stir until smooth. In a medium mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt and mix well. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in three batches, whisking well after each addition. Add two of the eggs and whisk until combined, and then add the remaining two eggs and whisk until incorporated. Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Transfer the batter to a liquid measuring cup for pouring, and fill the cups three-fourths full. Bake until the cakes just start to crack on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, and then unmold them if you baked them in a muffin tin and let cool completely. If you baked them in paper cups, just let them cool in the cups.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to just under a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for a minute or two. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Make sure the friands are cool before dipping them in the ganache. Holding each friand by its sides, dip the top into the ganache and then shake gently to let the excess run off the side. Return the friand to the rack and let the ganache set up in a cool place for about one hour. I don't recommend putting the friands in the refrigerator to set up if your kitchen is hot because condensation will form on the tops when you take them out, ruining the smooth look of the ganache. The only way to avoid the condensation is to place them in an airtight container before putting them in the refrigerator and then to leave them in the container when you remove them from the refrigerator until they come to room temperature, or to serve them right away.

Serve the friands within a day of making, or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Meyer Lemon Meringue Tarts
Chocolate Mousse Tarts with Raspberries
Recipes by Julie Mudrick

Sweet Tartlet Shells 
Makes 48 tartlet shells

2 1/4 sticks (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 t. salt
3 large egg yolks
3 T. ice water
1 t. vanilla

Cut butter into bits. In a bowl with a pastry blender or in a food processor blend or pulse flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt until combined well and add butter, blending or pulsing until mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl whisk together yolks, ice water, and vanilla until combined well and add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork or pulsing until incorporated. Form dough into a ball and divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into a ball and flatten to form disks. Chill disks, wrapped separately in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour and up to 1 week (If you don’t have much time you can also put them in the freezer for 15 minutes).

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Form 1 dough disk into twenty-four 1-inch balls, keeping remaining disk wrapped and chilled. Press dough balls into bottoms and up sides of twenty-four 1/8-cup mini-muffin cups (about 1 3/4 inches across top and 1 inch deep). Trim any overhang with a knife and prick bottoms of shells with a wooden pick. Chill shells 15 minutes, or until firm. Bake shells in middle of oven 12 minutes, or until golden, and cool in cups on racks. Gently loosen shells with a knife and remove from cups. Repeat with remaining dough.  Once cooled, fill with lemon curd or chocolate mousse and raspberries. 

Chocolate Mousse Tarts with Raspberries
(Fills about 24 tarts)

8 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
2 c. heavy cream

Chop chocolate and in a heavy saucepan bring cream just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add chocolate, stirring until mixture is smooth. Transfer filling to a bowl and cool slightly. Chill filling, its surface covered with plastic wrap, at least 4 hours, or until completely cold, and up to 3 days.

Put tartlet shells on a tray. With an electric mixer beat filling 30 seconds, or until pale and thickened (do not overbeat or it will become grainy). Transfer filling to a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip (or other fluted tip) and pipe chocolate into each shell filling it.  Add a strawberry on top.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  

Lemon Meringue Tarts

Mini Meringues:
2 egg whites at room temperature

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 t. vanilla

Put the egg whites in a large, clean bowl and whisk until soft peaks form (I use my electric mixer). 

Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition. Continue whisking until eggs are stiff and glossy. With a rubber spatula, fold in vanilla and additional flavoring, if you are using. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put meringue in a piping bag and pipe little star shaped dollops about 1 inch across, and 1 inch apart. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn temperature down to 250 degrees. Continue baking until firm to the touch, 10-15 minutes. Cool completely before removing from parchment paper. 

**You can make up to this point two days in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 
Place on top of the lemon curd just before serving. 

For the Lemon Curd: (you can use regular lemons or Meyer lemons)

Lemon Curd

adapted from Barefoot Contessa

4 lemons at room temperature 

1 1/2 c. sugar 

1/4 lb. unsalted butter at room temperature 

4 extra-large eggs at room temperature 

1/8 t. salt

Remove the zest of 2 lemons with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lime zest. Add-- the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lime juice and salt. Mix until combined.
Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside.
 Place in fridge to let set (30 minutes). Spoon curd into tarts.  Refrigerate.  Before ready to serve top with meringues.